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To the Editor: Grassroots organizing for jobs, not jails

To the Editor:

“Jobs Not Jails” will be the rallying cry this Saturday (April 26) at 1 p.m. on Boston Common as people from Dorchester and across Massachusetts gather to support the “Jobs Not Jails” campaign, which is headed up by Dorchester-based Boston Workers Alliance and Worcester’s EPOCA, Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement. This statewide effort is pushing back against a 30-year period of prison expansion and political rhetoric of “getting tough on crime” which has led to the incarceration of many non-violent drug offenders and addicts. The “Jobs Not Jails” campaign seeks to move Massachusetts spending priorities away from prison construction and toward full employment.

The costs associated with incarceration, $47,102 per inmate per year, have become a burden on the state budget and Governor Patrick, Speaker of the House DeLeo, and Senate President Murray have all expressed interest in implementing reforms that have been proven successful in reducing incarceration rates in other states. These include ending mandatory minimum drug sentences, diverting low level drug offenders to treatment, eliminating counter-productive measures such as automatic driver’s license suspension and high fees for court costs and telephone charges, and restoring education programs in prisons and jails.

If Massachusetts does not change course and continues incarcerating our citizens at the current rate, the Patrick administration estimates that we will spend $2,000,000,000 (yes, 2 billion!) by 2023 to build even more prisons. And Massachusetts is behind other states in reforming our criminal justice system in ways that can increase public safety as well as save money and provide more humane treatment for offenders. The Jobs Not Jails campaign delineates how we can use our revenue to support treatment and putting people back to work rather than having 40 percent of those released from prison return there within 3 years as is now the case.

To sign the Jobs Not Jails petition and to learn more about the campaign, go to JobsNotJails.org. And, consider showing up for the rally on Saturday.

Rosemary Kean